“Biggest Looser” and Eating Disorders

“Biggest Looser” and Eating Disorders 

I have recently heard about a contestant allegedly on the TV show, Biggest Looser, who lost more weight than what her ideal body weight should be.  I have only watched the show a couple of times, so I in no way want to put place this contestants’ weight loss solely on the fact that she was a contestant on the show.  Recently, there have been other examples of people promoting over exercising and fast weight loss as “healthy”.  Including, a fitness trainer who has shown pictures of her being very fit and thin, a short time after delivering her baby.  Many of us who work with individuals struggling with eating disorders are very much aware of the connection between people who over exercise and have an eating disorder.  However, so many people in the medical community do not seem aware of the dangers associated with people who over exercise.  Currently, our society is very focused on encouraging people to exercise.  Exercise is healthy and has many positive benefits associated with it.  Some of these benefits include physical (lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, a stronger heart muscles, less prone to injuries) and emotional (increase in serotonin levels that help improve our mood, feel more relaxed, less stressed, and happy).  So encouraging exercise is not a “bad” thing, but how and who you encourage to exercise can be problematic.  It would be helpful if medical providers could improve their ability to screen for eating disorders among their patients.  Medical professionals could hopefully appropriately identify those who are exercising for the wrong reasons (solely for cosmetic reasons) or to an extreme.  People who over exercise are often times missed as it being a problem.  The patients that may be identified are those who have frequent injuries that don’t recover from them, have vitals that may become unstable, or other physical problems that frequently indicate over exercising. 

How do we determine who is over exercising?  This is difficult for even eating disorder professionals to identify because there are no clear criteria to diagnose someone with over exercising.  Some signs that you or someone you know may be suffering with over exercising include; making working out a priority over other important activities (social, work, etc), working out when they are sick/injured, needing to follow a very specific routine or workout regiment, the person becomes very distressed if they don’t workout, and they spend a significant amount of time exercising even during times when they aren’t training for a special event.  If you feel you or someone you know may have a problem with over exercising, talk to a professional about your concerns.  You don’t have to suffer alone!   


Trusted Therapy, Inc

Tonya McFarland, PsyD

1030 Johnson Rd, 323

Golden, CO  80401